Friday, December 30, 2011

The Tale of Puffyman

This last blog post of 2011 is The Tale of Puffyman, a morality story with an unsatisfying ending. 

As has been previously mentioned in this blog, downtown Denver has a very visible, significant homeless population.  Recently, I heard on the radio that there are 11,000 homeless in Denver.  Of course, this is a group that must be very difficult to count as they don't have a reliable place to stay so I question how accurate that number is. Honestly, it seems like there are much more.  On any given day (sunshine or snow, broiling heat or frigid below zero temps), there is a person with a cardboard sign on every corner.

Because the Denver homeless problem is so obvious, for about the last six months, I've been volunteering at a full-service day shelter for homeless women called The Gathering Place.  I'm tutoring in the GED program and have gotten to know some women in the program who I greatly admire for trying to improve their situations.  But, I digress, as this is the tale of Puffyman.

About a block away from our apartment, there is a little pocket park wedged next to a busy street and Cherry Creek.  Every single day for the entire first year that we lived here, a man would sit in this tiny park all day long.  Depending on the weather, he would wear various layers of coats.  Of course, on the cold winter days, he would wear every coat he had, making him appear that he was quite big.  When he was in full winter regalia, he resembled the stay-puff marshmallow man, so we started to refer to him as Puffyman or, sometimes, Puffy for short.  

I would see Puffy sitting in his little park as I walked or drove by.  Usually, he looked like he was sleeping, but sometimes I'd see him reading a paperback book or eating.  He never had a sign or seemed the least bit interested in soliciting donations.  I often wondered how he took care of his basic needs as he never seemed to leave the park during the day.  How did he ever clean himself up?  Where did his food come from? When and how did he use the bathroom?  At night, he would disappear but we would sometimes see him on a bench in front of our bank, a few blocks away from his daytime gig.

Puffy was always alone.  In all of my Puffy sightings, I never saw anyone with him.  I would think about what a sad, lonely existence he had but never actually thought about approaching him or trying to offer some help.  To be perfectly honest, he looked kind of weird and I'm not sure how he would have smelled up close.  So I kept my distance.

Then, one day this month, after watching Puffy for an entire year, he disappeared from his little park.  I worried about him.  Was he still alive?  Was he in a hospital somewhere?  I felt guilty that after all of those days of seeing Puffy, I never showed him any humanity.  Weeks went by Puffy-less and I felt even worse that I had never tried to help him, never even approached him.  I vowed to be a better person in the future.

But one day earlier this week, as I drove by Puffy's park, there he was in a new camouflage outer coat, sitting where he always sat.  Did I jump out of the car, run to Puffy, give him a hug and tell him I missed him, and ask how I could help him?  No, I did not.  I did what I had done so many times before, just went on by, noting his presence but nothing more.  He still seemed pretty weird and a bit outside my comfort zone so, feeling much more guilty than before, I still didn't act the way I should.

So here's to a new year of 2012 where I hope we will all be filled with compassion for our fellow humans.  Maybe this will be the year that I get to know Puffy, but then again maybe not.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A White Christmas

Snow Drifts on the Terrace - 12/22/11

View from Apartment -  12/22/11

May your days be merry and bright . . .

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful (but a little late)

Sunset in Denver, 11/30/11

I meant to blog about being thankful during the appropriate week of Thanksgiving, but I was on vacation in California and that wound up meaning that I was on vacation from blogging as well.  So before it gets way too late to do this, I do want to express my gratitude and thankfulness for my very good life.  Of course, there isn't anyone who can't find "issues" to complain about, but brushing those negatives aside, I feel extremely lucky to feel good, have great family and friends, and an all-around easy life.  

I always say that if you wake up and you feel good, that's a good day.  Something to appreciate and you only truly appreciate this when you don't have it.  Kind of like how I feel about "bad hair days."  Once you lose your hair in chemotherapy, there are no more bad hair days, which may account for why mine sometimes looks so . . . well, bad . . . and I don't seem to care.

Thanksgiving 2011

Since I've not posted anything in many weeks, there is much to say.  However, I will try to spread that out over several posts in the near future so I don't overwhelm with excessive prose.  My thought is that everyone can get some smiles from the photos of the dogs who surrounded us at our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner in L.A., cooked to perfection by Anna and Max who appeared in this blog when they were married in Scotland in September.  As you can probably tell from the beautiful table pictured above, Anna and Max were totally channeling Martha Stewart and hosted a lovely and delicious dinner. 

Bunny and Mitzi Martin

Their great dane (who weighs 155 pounds) Mitzi Martin was well behaved and entertained her canine friends quite nicely.  She had a bone the size of a brontosaurus but she very sweetly ceded it to the smallest canine present, Bunny, who most likely weighs less than 10 pounds.  As you can see in the photo below, it is not true that the big dog always gets the bone.

While we're on the topic of dogs, I can't end this post without including some photos of my very cute granddog, The Baroness.  Enjoy and be thankful.  I am.

The Smiling Baroness

The Baroness and her buddy Bunny (white socks courtesy of Isac)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Year at Mile High

Friday will mark one year since we sashayed into Denver with the intention of making it our new home.  It's been an interesting and not always easy year, but also an eventful one.  Moving is definitely not for sissies.  Even moving a few blocks can be an exhausting experience, primarily because it's so physically tiring.  Then add to that the mental and emotional components that come with moving 1,400 miles - all the way from grits to granola - and that's been my year.

I've learned a lot - primarily about myself, but also about other people, places and things - in this year.  I still miss the folks I've left behind but really nothing else.  I've been very fortunate to see so many people during this year in all sorts of places and particularly fortunate that a number of them have actually been in Denver in the last 12 months.  

Having made some big moves in the past, I understand that it takes time to feel comfortable in a new location and with new people.  With that in mind, I feel fortunate to have a great husband who so wants me to be happy and a wonderful place to live.   I've met some nice new people and reacquainted with old friends.  My time is free to do with as I please, and I'm starting to accept that it's ok to sit down, put my feet up, and enjoy reading a good book, even if it is the middle of the day.

Almost everything about my Denver life is different than my Atlanta life, but that doesn't make it bad, just different.  The mountains are so very pretty to look at, but they will never beckon me like the beach.  That's just part of who I am - Jersey Shore, through and through.   

So I embark on this second year of our Western adventure with interest to see what the future holds.  I hope to keep posting here both my occasional thoughts that seem worthy of sharing as well as my travel adventures.  This blog has been fun to write and has served its purpose of keeping me in touch with people whom I miss.   I enjoy hearing from you and hope that will continue during my second mile high year.  

By the way, I still miss my grits.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Snow + Obama = Interesting Wednesday

Our terrace - 10/26/11

On Monday, Denver set a new high temperature record of 80°.  On Wednesday, it snowed and snowed - the first of the season.  Colorado weather is definitely interesting.

My ticket

Also, on Wednesday, President Obama spoke at UCDenver, where Barry works.  Since he was literally speaking across the street from our loft, I would have felt badly if I missed the opportunity to see our President.  Last night, he stayed at The Four Seasons Hotel, about 3 blocks from our place, so several blocks of the surrounding area were totally closed to traffic.  It was eery to walk over to the campus in the snow with no traffic to be seen.

Line to see Obama

Remnants of line to see Obama

With ticket in hand, I waited for over an hour as the white stuff continued to fall to go through security to get into the speech. It was worth it.  There's a certain excitement about being in a room with thousands of regular people and one very powerful person. Segments from his speech in Denver can be seen here.   Everyone was hoisting their cell phones to record a glimpse of the Pres, so I apologize for my disappointing photo below.

The guy in the white shirt under the flag is Obama

What a difference a swing state makes.  When I lived in Georgia, we never saw any candidates come through in 2008.  Both parties ceded the election to the R column. But, since Colorado is a swing state, I expect to see lots of action. This is already the second time in a month that Obama spoke in Denver.  Most people who have lived here a while have seen him numerous times.  I definitely had candidate envy, so I will have to make up for all of the lost opportunities of seeing politicians do their thing while we live in Denver.

So, an interesting Wednesday, and I'm ready for the snow to stop now please.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cabbage of Ostracism

I was invited to Ethiopian Night at a friend's house, which meant making an Ethiopian dish to share.   Once I found a recipe named "Cabbage of Ostracism," I was hooked. How could I pass that one up?  Of course, I worried a bit about the ostracism part - hoping that there were not gaseous outpourings upon ingestion that caused one to be ostracized.  

It looked and tasted pretty normal, if anything I would have liked it spicier.  And no ostracism that I detected.

But it made me think how much fun it would be to name our dishes in this way. Meatloaf of Mediocrity, Eggs of Anxiety, Beneficent Brownies, Cauliflower of Conjecture, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  Tonight I think I'll go with Fish Tacos of Tenacity.  

Would love to hear your creative suggestions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is Thomas Wolfe Correct?

Yes and no.

He did say "You Can't Go Home Again", and I learned this past weekend that you can in some respects, but not in others.

For the first time since I moved to Denver last November, I went back to Atlanta (and, yes, I had grits more than once while there) for less than 72 hours.  I tried to cram in as much friend immersion as I possibly could in that short time period.  I was disappointed that I did not get to see everyone who I wanted to spend time with, and the time that I spent with those who I did see was shorter than I would have liked.  But it still was so much fun to see my ATL friends.

What struck me is that I don't miss the place at all.  I drove by my beloved home, and my first and foremost thought was "thank goodness we don't have to take care of that property any more." 

Of course, I do miss the people, but it was very comforting to see folks who I haven't seen in almost a year and just pick up exactly where we left off.  It was as if I had seen them a few weeks ago.  What a wonderful feeling - just the way I hoped it would be when I wrote about friendship in this blog nine months ago here.

How different adult friendships are than friendships when you are young.  Remember how people who you now barely remember signed your yearbook in high school, promising eternal friendship?  Then you saw them a few years later and had nothing to say to each other?  Well, this was nothing like that.  This was a great experience, giving a secure feeling that these people will be with me for life.

For me, "Home" was definitely not the place, but the people.  Thank you, friends.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekend Invasions

There were a significant number of  visitors to our hood this weekend.

First on Friday, I noticed a line of thousands of women pouring out of the Pepsi Center near our apartment.  I went on line to see the origin of this wealth of women and found out that it was a conference of The Women of Faith.  Who are these women, I wondered?  I went on their website and found this description of the the 2-day event in Denver:  "God loves us more than we know.  He gives us more than we can ask or dream.  He's unrestrained . . . excessive . . . outrageous . . . Over the Top."  Wow - I've never seen God described like a Justin Bieber press release before.  To add to this, I was rendered breathless by the list of speakers at this event, including ... wait for it ... Blair from The Facts of Life (Lisa Whelchel).  I've always felt that my spiritual world needs inspiration from a child tv star from the 80's, don't you?

In the other direction, on the downtown Denver roster this weekend, was the Great American Beer Festival at the convention center.  I'm not quite sure what one does at a beer festival, but I imagine it involves drinking large quantities of beer.  I do know that 40,000 tickets were sold to this maxed-out event.  I also know that there were beer-drinking folks everywhere, sporting necklaces with beer cans hanging from them or pretzel necklaces with actual edible pretzels dangling.

So I felt a bit out of place this weekend until Sunday, when the Race for the Cure invaded.  Finally, my people were here.  Quite a sight from the terrace as tens of thousands walked, ran, jostled and enjoyed.  A great cause.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Bullwinkle in the Backyard and Other Autumn Items

We moved to Denver last year at the end of fall, so we have now almost completed all four seasons here.  By far, I've enjoyed the autumn weather the most.  It's been sunny, warm but not hot, and absolutely spectacular.  I've felt like a whiny Goldilocks when it comes to the Denver weather:  the winter was, at times, too cold; the spring was too wet; and the summer was too hot.  But, I gotta admit, fall is just right.  

The Flatirons near Boulder (where the hike/walk took place)
And I've been trying to take advantage of this lovely weather, making the effort to do more outdoorsy things (but, I still fall very short in this category compared to my fellow Coloradans).  I've even taken a small hike, which I would just call a walk.  This reminds me of the question that I've had since I moved here:  what is the difference between a hike and a walk?  I would never say that I'm taking a hike to Main Street, so maybe it has something to do with whether it's in the city or the country?  Or is the difference whether you're walking on a paved surface versus dirt?  Or, as one friend suggested to me, when you drive to a place just so you can walk, that's a hike.  

There are beautiful sunsets every night that we enjoy from the terrace.

Bullwinkle in the Backyard (note the golden aspens in the background)
I drove to the mountains to see an old Texas friend this week.  As her dog barked on the deck, we went outside to see what was going on.  There was a very large moose in her backyard, who bore a suspicious resemblance to Bullwinkle.  It's beautiful in the mountains this time of year.  The many aspen trees are all turning a golden yellow, and they absolutely glimmer.

View from the lunch table at Breckenridge

Fall is also a time to celebrate the birthday of my lovely and talented daughter, Emily Shur.   She turned 35 this past week, which makes me feel incredibly old.  I know that I gave birth to her a very long time ago, in the days when seeing a pregnant woman have a glass of wine would not bring consternation from the public at large.  In fact, the night before Emily was born, I called my doctor to tell him that I had started having contractions.  His advice was to drink the strongest alcoholic drink that I could and go to sleep.  He said if I was really in labor, I would need the rest and would eventually wake up because no one has ever slept through labor.  I followed his advice and, yes, I did wake up, but somehow I think he would not give the same advice today.  Anyway, I hope Emily enjoys her year as much as I enjoy having her as my daughter.

Happy fall to all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bonny Scotland

We're back from our trip to Bonny Scotland - beautiful scenery, historic surroundings.

We started our road trip at St. Andrews.

St. Andrew's Castle from the 12th Century

St. Andrew's Cathedral, a relative newcomer from the 14th Century

On the way north to Inverness, we stopped at Glamis Castle where the Queen Mother's family lived.

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle from the garden
Glamis Castle Livestock

My favorite was the Isle of Skye, which, in parts, reminded me of the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand.  We took a great drive around the Trotternish Peninsula that was spectacular.

Next we went south to Oban on the only awful day weather-wise - rainy and very blustery.  We stayed at a lovely place, once owned by the Duke of Argyll.

Dungallan Country House, Oban

After 5 days on the road, we were happy to give up the car.  The reverse driving was a challenge, as were the narrow curving roads.  Sometimes, there was only one lane for both directions and we relied on the other guy to stop where necessary.   Sometimes we didn't understand the signs, even though they were in English, and sometimes the signs were unmistakably clear. 


They didn't have to tell me twice

We finally settled in Edinburgh for the last part of the trip.  Of course, history abounds here, and we enjoyed staying in Old Town (even New Town is a few hundred years old).

View of Edinburgh from the Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle (yes, that's me in the bottom left)

Outside the National Gallery of Scotland

The fitting finale for the trip was the wedding we attended at Dundas Castle where the ceremony took place in the Auld Keep, built in 1416.  A beautiful event, complete with the wedding rings being flown in during the ceremony by a white owl.  

Bride and Groom with bird friends

Wedding cake befitting a castle

Dundas Castle at night

A magical place and a magical trip.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Happiness Project

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I would provide a book report of sorts on The Happiness Project.  Well, I've completed reading the book, and while it isn't exactly my kind of book (or, for that matter, my kind of project), there were some worthwhile tidbits in it that I'd like to share.  

The author, Gretchen Rubin, is far too anal for me.  She spent a year trying to be happier by assigning a topic each month to work on. For example, one of her resolutions during one month was to make three new friends.  I had to wonder what kind of friendship you can create when making friends is simply something on your to-do list to be checked off.  She even broke down "fun" into three separate categories. Hey, it's not "fun" if you have to categorize it.  The author has a "Resolutions Chart" where she gives herself check marks or stars if she follows through on her resolutions. She has "12 Commandments" as well as "Secrets of Adulthood" that she uses as the basis for her project.  

While this attempt at happiness is way too structured for me, I did think that there was some worthwhile information in the book - not rocket science and maybe things that I already knew, but sometimes it's good to see it in writing.   Some of her 12 Commandments resonated with me, such as "Be Gretchen" (or, in my case, Be Judi); "Let it go";  "Act the way I want to feel"; "Enjoy the process".   Her "Secrets of Adulthood" ranged from "Do good, feel good" to such things as "Bring a sweater".

So the basic premise of the book is to try to create the optimum atmosphere for happiness by tackling topics such as vitality (exercise better and get more sleep) to relationships (marriage, parenthood, friendship) to mindfulness (be more in the moment as you go about your busy life).  There is some merit in taking time to consider how we react to our environment and the people around us.  Rubin discusses studies that show "emotional contagion" where we unconsciously catch emotions from other people - both good and bad moods.  We all know that to be true, but maybe being a little more aware of this will help us avoid the bad and emphasize the good.

One of the most interesting (to me) topics mentioned in the book is that for both men and women, "the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn't make a difference."   So that's why I value my lady friends so much.  Aha!

I did identify with some of her suggestions, like find more fun, take time to be silly, enjoy now, be grateful, fake it till you feel it, and laugh out loud.  The book encouraged me to continue my own mood makeover in my own way, trying always to be more in the moment, lighter and, well, just plain old happier.  And to never, not for a second, forget how grateful I am.

Postscript to Post:  We take off for 10 days on Friday to Scotland for a vacation and, at the end, a wedding in a castle.  Stay tuned for photos posted here in mid-September. My goal for today is to fit everything I'm packing in one carry-on.  Ah, true happiness if I'm successful.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

We took company this weekend to the iconic Red Rocks.  How could I not see the hand in this otherwise well composed photo?  My daughter certainly didn't get her photography genes from me.

Another view of the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheatre, just west of Denver, where every well known music act has played, including the Beatles, Grateful Dead, U2, etc. You can see downtown Denver in the distance.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How I've Spent My Summer

I'm feeling guilty that I've neglected my blog for so long.  The purpose of the blog from the beginning was to keep in touch with friends and let them know what I'm doing and thinking, in the hope that I would consequently hear from them as well, as I often do. So I feel obligated to tell you that I haven't done a whole lot since I last wrote here but I want to say hello anyway.

It's been a hotter summer in Denver than I would have guessed.  Most days, it's in the mid-90s and that's been a surprise to me.  The evenings and mornings are cooler, and the air is dry, but it's still pretty darn hot.  So I've spent a lot of time in my apartment, not being super-productive.  I've read a lot and wasted an incredible amount of time looking out the window.  Except for our short stint on 83rd Street in NYC, where I watched incredulously as otherwise normal looking people would pee right in front of our building, I haven't really lived anywhere before where there is so much to look at. We have the long view of the Front Range that's pretty, but not as fascinating as watching people close up as they go about their day to day lives.  Added to this mix is a hotel being built across the street.  It's part of a school for hotel administration, and we've watched its progress since they started digging a hole there in January.  So, while  I'm not proud of this, I get high marks in time wasting as I gaze out on Denver.

I do leave the apartment occasionally - I've been going to my trainer a/k/a Killer regularly two times a week, and I've been volunteering at a women's day shelter tutoring for the GED.  

But I digress.  What I really wanted to write about today was a revelation that I had a few weeks ago.  I realized that I had a sizable chip on my shoulder as a result of leaving my nice life in Atlanta and being dropped in a new place.  Anyone that knows me well has probably heard me say "you have to like where you are because that's where you are."  Alas, I was not practicing what I preached.  This called for drastic measures, and I prescribed a mood makeover for myself.

The mood makeover is still in progress but seems to be moving along at a good pace. I just started being nicer, smiling more and generally trying to be happier. I was surprised by how easy this actually was.  Of course, there are setbacks when my car wouldn't start, the stock market crashed and then crashed again and then crashed yet again, or when there was a leak in the apartment below us and three holes had to be cut into our bedroom wall to find and repair the leak coming from above.  Hey, I'm only human;  I can't be in a good mood all of the time.

It's no coincidence that after I was well into the mood makeover, I started reading a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I haven't gotten far enough into the book to be able to pass judgment on whether it is worthwhile or not.  I promise to write a book report of sorts here when I've completed the book.  But I am interested in the idea of actively trying to be happier and whether it works.  After all, isn't being happy everyone's goal?  Isn't that what we say we want for our children and those we love?  And if there's a way to boost my personal happiness quotient, then I definitely want to do that.  The author quotes Aristotle:  "Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."  Can I argue with Aristotle?  Definitely not.

So I will report back soon on this book and my own happiness project.  In the meantime, don't worry - be happy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

View From My Bedroom Window

Q:  Is it disconcerting to see a two-story nose from your bedroom window?

A:  Yes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


If you're picturing a cool, green Alpine existence in Colorado in the summer, you would be wrong.  The thermometer pictured above, showing 118.9°, is the actual temperature, in full blazing sun, on our terrace on Monday, July 18, at 5:50 pm.  The "official" temperature was only about 98°, but the sun is so strong when you're up a mile high.  Yes, the humidity is low, but hot is hot. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Proud Mama Grizzly

At the risk of being obnoxious, I can't help but be proud that a photograph taken by my daughter is on the cover of Newsweek this week.  You can see the images here.

Since these images are of Sarah Palin, the experience of meeting her and spending time with Sarah is the subject of a recent blog post by Emily, which you can read by clicking here.  If you have some free time on your hands, scroll down and read the many comments that this blog post engendered.  It's clear after reading them that Sarah is indeed a lightning rod - you either love her or hate her, with very few people having no strong opinion.

Back to California

Just got back from Monterey, California where I accompanied Barry to his first graduate school deans' meeting.  Monterey is in a very beautiful part of this country, but it's disappointing to see how tacky and touristy it has become. I'm not sure how the town let this happen but yucky t-shirt shops and Bubba Gump restaurants abound. Carmel, which is right next to Monterey, is still lovely with nice shops and restaurants, and no chain stores/restaurants in sight.

As most of the country baked, it was cold there.  Gray and cloudy most of the time, with high temperatures in the low 60s.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve 

Before I sound too whiny, let me say that we did some nice things there.  The highlight was Point Lobos State Reserve, which was magical.  We saw huge numbers of sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters, and now even know the difference between them, thanks to a helpful docent at the park. There were whales spouting in the distance. The wildflowers were in bloom, and color was everywhere. We liked it so well that we actually went twice.

Monterey Aquarium
The meeting held a dinner at Monterey Aquarium, which was nice.

Santa Cruz
On our way back to San Francisco Airport, we stopped for lunch in Santa Cruz, where the seals were hanging out a few feet away.

Traveling, when it's bad, can be such a hassle, and last night was one of those times. Our flight was delayed because of a huge lightning and hale storm in Denver, and I'm amazed that we were allowed to land at all. Once we got on the ground, we had to sit in the plane as they wouldn't let any of the planes at the gates move. A very long night. And every time I take off my shoes, get my little baggy of liquids, and pull out the electronics, I can't help but think that the terrorists have actually won by creating an atmosphere where we have to go through this drill over and over again.  Excuse my rant - I'm tired.